The harsh words of the Canadian premier were caused by the scandalous comments made by US ambassador to Ottawa David Wilkins who called on Canadian politicians to "look what they were saying about the US" in the course of the current political campaign in Canada ahead of the extraordinary general election slated for January 23, 2006.
As ambassador Wilkins said, "Canada should never have called the US names to assert itself". He also recommended Canadian politicians to carefully weigh whether it was worthwhile to sacrifice the long-term prospects of the two countries' relations in favor of short-term political gains.
Leader of Canada's Liberal Party Paul Martin, who came to head the country's government 17 months ago, is fighting for re-election after his cabinet was brought down in a vote of no-confidence passed in parliament at the end of November.
The US ambassador's words only poured oil on the flames of the pre-election campaign in Canada and caused indignation of many Canadian politicians and public figures. Even Paul Martin's opponent, Conservative leader Stephen Harper called the US Ambassador's criticisms "inappropriate" and said that no foreign ambassador had the right to interfere in the on-going electoral campaign.
Observers believe that the immediate reason for the US ambassador's taking Ottawa to task was the displeasure of the official Washington with the recent condemnation by Paul Martin of the US unwillingness to join the world community in fighting the climate changes on our planet. Harsh criticism of the US was leveled by Canada at an international conference on global warming held recently in Montreal.
However, the frictions and antagonisms between Ottawa and Washington have had quite a long history and became especially apparent after Canada refused in 2003 to support the US-led invasion of Iraq. The US-Canada relations deteriorated still more when Paul Martin's government (incidentally, believed to be "pro-American") took Washington by surprise by refusing to take part in the implementation of the new anti-missile defense program for the North American continent developed in the US.
In addition, frictions between the US and Canada have surfaced over the issue of developing the natural resources of the Arctic Zone and the control of its transportation routes which acquire an increasing strategic and economic role due to the thawing of Arctic ices and the resulting extended duration of the Polar summer navigation. Finally, Washington makes scarce attempt to conceal its irritation over Canada's "excessively active", from the US point of view, strengthening of political and economic ties between Canada and Russia.
Vexed by the independent stand of its northern neighbor on many key issues, the US administration has been augmenting its pressure on Canada. In particular, hints have been dropped already that Canadian companies may lose some profitable US contracts. Washington has also been heavily hinting that it may stop supporting Ottawa' initiatives on the international scene, etc.
However, despite the growing displeasure of the US and the sideswipes made by pro-American circles inside Canada itself, Washington has been advised to get used to Ottawa's growing independence. Premier Paul Martin has stated that he was far from trying to score points on anti-American rhetoric ahead of the election, but was only trying to defend his country's interests.
As P. Martin told journalists, he was not going to be dictated to as to the subjects he should or shouldn't raise and he would make sure that Canada spoke with an independent voice. Though observers are inclined to believe that Canadian premier's words should still be viewed in the pre-election context, Canada-US relations, no matter what the outcome of the election may be, are hardly to significantly thaw up in the foreseeable future.
Canada's political elite and general public are obviously not inclined to allow their southern neighbor to go on with its accustomed impudent diktat, nor to sacrifice their national interests for the sake of Washington's dubious benevolence.